'The time for action is now': Brighton students strike over climate change

Students and schoolchildren from Brighton swapped pencils for placards today (February 15), taking to the city’s streets as part of a coordinated day of national action against climate change.

Organised by University of Sussex students as part of the Youth Strike 4 Climate movement, the protest saw hundreds march through the city and call on the government to declare a climate emergency.

Protesters gathered at the Clock Tower (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)

Protesters gathered at the Clock Tower (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)

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Students marching against climate change

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Addressing protesters after the march, Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas said: “The time for talking is over, the time for action is now.”

Mrs Lucas told the crowds global climate emissions had to be halved in less than 12 years if a climate catastrophe is to be prevented.

“The shameful thing is that my generation has let you down,” she said.

Young people from schools across the Brighton area, including Lewes and Eastbourne, took part in strike, demanding the current government recognise their role in contributing towards climate change and reform the national curriculum to address the growing ecological crisis.

Hundreds of students marched through the city

Hundreds of students marched through the city

Leading the march was Sussex Student Union society and citizenship officer Aisling Murray, rousing the crowds with chants of ‘shame on you’ and ‘go away Theresa May’.

“The young people in Brighton are really politically aware, and they are going to be the future of change,” said Miss Murray.

“It is incredible to see the energy here.”

Following the march, the crowd rallied at The Level and were addressed by a number of speakers including Mrs Lucas.

One of those who spoke was James O’Nions, who heads up the activism team at Global Justice Now.

To cheers of support, he told the crowds: “Climate change is a collective problem, and we need to find a collective solution.”

Mr O’Nions also spoke about the need for climate justice, one of the key focuses of the Brighton protest.

Climate justice frames global warming as not just an environmental issue, but also a political and ethical one.

“Your generation has had its future stolen,” declared Mr O’Nions.

“It’s time to fight back.”

The march in Brighton was held in tandem with student strikes across the country that were inspired by the actions of 16-year-old schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, who held a solo demonstration outside of the Swedish parliament last year to help draw attention to the climate crisis.

Speaking after the rally, Green councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty said: “I think it is absolutely amazing that young people in Brighton and Hove, and across the country, are taking the issue [of climate change] seriously when the government has failed completely to show leadership on it.”

Supporting the students on their strike were plenty of parents and practitioners from the local area.

One ex-headteacher, known only as Toope, had brought her grandson along to the protest.

“The signs show that these are not just students who are bunking off for the day,” she said.

“They know what they are talking about, they have been listening to the speeches, and I am just so impressed by what is going on.”

The Brighton strike was organised in part by second-year Sussex student Roseanne Steffen, who was thrilled by the response.

Through a megaphone, Miss Steffen declared that they were not, as some people had described them, the procrastination generation.

“We want every one to be informed,” she said. “We’ll show the Daily Mail that we’re not just skivers.”

The Youth Strike 4 Justice movement have already planned another strike, this time on a global scale, that is due to take place in March.